Solstice Canyon Hike

Solstice Canyon Hike

In This Guide
  • Solstice Canyon Video and Turn-by-Turn Directions
  • Where to Park for the Solstice Canyon Hike
  • Insider Tips and Recommendations
Total Distance (?)3.2 miles (5.2 km)
Hike Time2 Hours (Total)
Difficulty (?)Moderate
Total Ascent (?)700 feet (213m)
Highest Elevation770 feet (235m)
Fees & PermitsFree
Dogs AllowedLeashed
Alerts & Closures (?)Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
Park Phone805-370-2301
Weather & ForecastLatest Conditions

The Solstice Canyon hike in Malibu is one of the most beautiful (and popular) hikes you can find. Within the short distance of 3 miles, you get a bit of everything, ocean views from coastal hillsides, a shaded canyon along only one of two perennial water sources in the Santa Monica Mountains, a waterfall, and a solid dose of architecture and local history. In this guide, I’ll take you on the popular loop hike to enjoy all the sights along Solstice Canyon.

Where is Solstice Canyon?

The Solstice Canyon trailhead is in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a few minutes inland from the ocean in Malibu. Use this trailhead address:
Solstice Canyon Road, Malibu, CA, 90265

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When you first pull into the park, go past the sign and the first parking area by the entrance. Keep driving a short distance down the paved road.

Fun fact: Solstice Canyon Park opened on summer solstice, 1988.

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Eventually you’ll come to the end of the road and the main trailhead parking.
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On the left is the education area that offers some good interpretive displays.
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The toilets are two minutes up the trail, and are not visible from the parking area.

Gear For the Hike

I’d recommend fitness clothing or light hiking gear for this hike. Bring at least 1L of water and some sun protection.

Gear 2022 8

I waste my time with lousy hiking gear so you don’t have to. Only the winners get onto my gear page. There’s no fluff, sponsorships, or promotions. It’s just gear I personally use, have tested, and recommend. Right now I’m liking my inReach Mini 2, Garmin Epix, and Lone Peak 6 shoes.
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My September 2022 Top Gear Picks

Solstice Canyon Trail Maps

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Overall the trails are well-marked and easy to navigate.
Click Here To View

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Guides to Help You Navigate

Elevation Profile

Solstice Canyon Hike Elevation
We’ll get the climbing done in the beginning of the hike, and then enjoy a nice long downhill back to the start.

3D Map

Solstice Canyon Hike 3d Map
This loop hike goes counter-clockwise, climbing up the hill for the great views, and then descending back into Solstice Canyon and following it back to the start.

Solstice Canyon Hike Directions

Video Directions

Have a question about the guide or want to see what other people are saying/asking? View the Youtube comments for this video. Leave a comment and I will do my best to respond.

Turn by Turn Directions

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Go through the gate at the end of the parking lot.
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And then immediately look for the trail to the left going uphill.
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Start climbing up the TRW Loop Trail.

TRW stands for Thompson-Ramo-Wooldridge, the company that owned Space Technology laboratories, which rented 10 acres here in the 1960s. Solstice Canyon was one of only three places on earth chosen to test equipment used for the Pioneer planet exploration satellites. TRW selected the area because it was free of human-created or natural electromagnetic disturbances.

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And after climbing a bit you’ll see the old TRW space lab, also known as “the Darth Vadar building.” Today it is the headquarters of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.
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Look back as you climb for views of the Pacific Ocean.
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Keep climbing up the hillside.
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When you get to the paved road, cross over and continue hiking.
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At the t-junction, make the right toward the Rising Sun Trail.

The Rising Sun Trail is named after one of the earliest vineyards in Southern California, the Rising Sun Vineyard, started by early settler Matthew Keller. We’ll visit his house later in the hike.

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Here’s the sign at that junction.
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When you get to the (closed to cars) parking area, make the left.
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And look for the trail to continue from the parking lot.
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Here’s the sign from the parking lot trailhead. We’ll be on the Rising Sun Trail for the next 1.5 miles, until we reach the Tropical Terrace ruins.
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You’ll have a bit more climbing to do.
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And now you’ll be able to see the Pacific to the north, over the hills.
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Keep hiking straight when a trail joins in from the right.
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And now you enjoy some incredible views of the upper sections of Solstice Canyon.
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There’s some great eroded rock formations along this section.
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And at about 1.3 miles in you’ll start to descend into the lower part of the canyon.
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When you see the lush palm and (non-native) agave and bamboo, you’re almost at the bottom.
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Cross the creek, which is usually an easy rock hop.

The creek is one of only two that flow year-round in the Santa Monica Mountains. It used to be stocked with trout, and at one point Steelhead would migrate up the creek from the ocean.

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Now you are at the Tropical Terrace Ruins. Make a quick right to hike up to Solstice waterfall.
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The path follows a fence.
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And then ends at a viewing area for the cute waterfall.
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Head back and explore the Tropical Terrace Ruins.
Tropical Terrace Arch Digest
Here’s what the house used to look like. Photo Architectural Digest 1953

Tropical Terrace, also known as the Roberts House, was a bit of an architectural landmark. It was built by Paul Revere Williams, a famous African-American architect who also built homes for Frank Sinatra and Lucille Ball. The water features of the house served as a fire-prevention system. After the house sat unused and unmaintained for a while, it finally succumbed to the 1982 Dayton Canyon Fire.

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When you’re done exploring the ruins, hike down the paved road.
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Go straight past the Sostomo Trail junction.
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If you look up to your left, you’ll see the rock formations that we passed earlier from above.
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At the split, keep right. you can also go left along the creek, but there can be some poison oak and ticks down there, so heads up.

You might hear loud parakeets as you hike down the trail. There’s an active community of black-hooded parakeets in the canyon. The species is from South America, and these are ones were released (or escaped from) by pet owners. Today they thrive in the wild here.

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When you get to the bridge, cross over to visit the Keller ruins. After we’re done, we’ll continue back down this road.
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Here’s the Keller ruins, thought to be the oldest stone building in Malibu, destroyed by fire in 2007.

The Kellers were Irish immigrants and sheep farmers who moved here in 1857 after buying the land for $0.10 cents an acre.

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After continuing on the road, look for the charred remains of the Keller Oak, a massive oak tree planted by the Kellers.
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When the trail splits, go left over the bridge.
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Stay on the main trail, avoiding the lower TRW Loop turnoff to the right.
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And soon you’ll see the restrooms.
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And then the gate at the start. That’s the hike!

Did something change on this hike? If so, please contact me and let me know. I'll update the guide.

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This Guide Was Written by Cris Hazzard

Cris Hazzard 4 Mile Trail Yosemite
Hi, I’m Cris Hazzard, aka Hiking Guy, a professional outdoors guide, hiking expert, and author based in Southern California. I created this website to share all the great hikes I do with everyone else out there. This site is different because it gives detailed directions that even the beginning hiker can follow. I also share what hiking gear works and doesn’t so you don’t waste money. I don’t do sponsored or promoted content; I share only the gear recommendations, hikes, and tips that I would with my family and friends. If you like the website and YouTube channel, please support these free guides (I couldn’t do it without folks like you!).

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